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Pirates convene in Bochum, seeking clearer course

Germany's Pirate Party has opened its party conference, with more than a thousand members on hand. The pro-transparency group, that briefly looked set to establish its own political niche, has hit the doldrums of late.

Party chairman Bernd Schlömer told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that his group had been going through an "orientation phase," but that it was time to chart a more defined course ahead of next year's federal elections in Germany.

More than 1,000 members of the comparatively new political party were to spend the weekend in the industrial western city of Bochum, seeking a little more substance for their slender party manifesto.

"Now we need to show that we can work towards shared goals," Schlömer said.

In his later speech to open the convention, Schlömer said their goals should be to establish the party as a "socio-liberal power in the information age" and ultimately to create "a different political climate."

The group clearly advocates transparency and freedom of information, but after that, the waters get muddier - with a public appeal for ideas and suggestions creating a large but very disparate set of potential policies.

One thing that was clear, according to Schlömer, was the party's membership "generally identify with an ordoliberal economic direction." Ordoliberalism is an economic school of thought with its roots in Freiburg, Germany; it places a strong emphasis both on a free market economy and on the responsibility of the state to work towards conditions in which this market can thrive.

It is largely attributed as the overwhelming German economic policy direction taken during the so-called Economic Miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) in the early post-war years under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

Seeking to stay on the map

Precise policies on issues like the economy, energy and Europe are among the areas up for discussion in Bochum over the weekend.

After an extended honeymoon period, celebrating electoral successes in four states at regional elections and sometimes polling at more than 10 percent nationwide, the Pirate Party has recently bottomed out at around 4 percent support in most opinion polls. This is just below the 5-percent threshold required to be guaranteed parliamentary seats - though it still puts the party neck-and-neck in the polls with the Chancellor Angela Merkel's junior coalition partners, the Free Democrats.

In the event that the Pirates were to rebound in the polls ahead of the elections, they might find some interest from mainstream political parties seeking junior coalition partners. Speaking to Deutschlandfunk before the conference, Schlömer said not to expect the kind of pledges of loyalty that are common among German parties in the run-up to a national vote. Saying his group had "a rather different culture," Schlömer said the "our guiding principle is to form alliances based on the issues."

msh/mz (dapd, dpa)